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Nokia prepares for tomorrow's N-Gage launch

The only major console launch of the year happens tomorrow, with the N-Gage finally arriving at retail globally - but this must be one of the quietest platform launches ever, despite Nokia's claims of major marketing support.

The only major console launch of the year happens tomorrow, with the N-Gage finally arriving at retail globally - but this must be one of the quietest platform launches ever, despite Nokia's claims of major marketing support.

Speaking to gi.biz at ECTS just over a month ago, Nokia's director of global marketing services, Sari Tollet, enthused about a unified worldwide marketing campaign for the device which would promote the same messages in every global territory where the device is launching.

Information from the company since then has promised advertising campaigns featuring cinema, television, print, Internet and outdoor advertising, not to mention strong presence in retail outlets worldwide.

Certainly, some elements of this campaign are in place. The company's teaser TV advertisement can be downloaded from the n-gage.com website, while certain retail outlets are carrying N-Gage point of sale materials and we're led to believe that some budget has been allocated for online marketing.

However, by the standard of game console launches, the N-Gage launch is a non-starter in terms of hype and marketing, at least in the UK. Nokia's huge marketing campaign for the device seems to be more talk than reality, with no sign of any major advertising for the system around London at the weekend and very little exposure in mainstream print publications.

The PR-friendly events which generally accompany this sort of launch simply aren't happening, either. We're not aware of a single store opening at midnight to sell the device, or of a celebrity-heavy launch party - which surely shouldn't have been beyond the means of a company with the media clout of Nokia.

Even more worryingly, the point of sale material for the device is thin on the ground, with a quick poll of UK retail chains revealing little or no support for the N-Gage. Admittedly, the deck is suffering because of the price cuts to the GameCube and PlayStation 2, which have stolen plenty of advertising space in shop windows over the weekend - but regardless, the new system is extremely poorly supported at games retail.

This is a bizarre situation. Given the effort made by Nokia to push the device at its original press launch in Spring, at E3 and at ECTS, we'd expected a media blitz for the consumer launch of the N-Gage - but we doubt that more than a handful of gamers are even aware that the system is out tomorrow. Has Nokia, faced with criticism of the hardware from the press and a mass exodus of mobile game developers (many of whom have abandoned N-Gage projects in favour of returning to developing cross-platform Java games), lost confidence in the N-Gage at the last minute?

Author
Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.